Jess Rubenstein of Prospect Park called Campbell “the comeback kid who rebuilt his entire game” at Western Michigan University and should have been given at least an amateur tryout contract with the Whale at the end of last season.
“The lack of centers, let alone those who are natural goal scorers in the system, should have been enough to earn Campbell a look,” Rubenstein said via email. “The kid scored some huge season-saving goals for Western Michigan. Heck, Campbell is the kid who knocked off (wing) Carl Hagelin and Michigan in the CCHA (Central Collegiate Hockey Association) semifinals. He had one game where he scored with like 0.09 on the clock to beat Notre Dame.
“Campbell is as skinny as a rail, though, as it has been hard for this kid to put on weight, but you have to like a kid who paid his own way to attend two Rangers camp after being drafted.”
Hagelin, a left wing, was one of eight players the Rangers signed to ATOs after he co-captained Michigan to the NCAA title game that the Wolverines lost 3-2 in overtime to Minnesota-Duluth. Hagelin, a former teammate of Whale right wing Chad Kolarik at Michigan, played well down the stretch and in the playoffs.
The 6-foot, 190-pound Campbell was the Rangers’ fifth-round pick in 2007 before getting 46 goals and 61 assists in 154 games at Western Michigan. Campbell, 22, posted college career highs for goals (18), assists (17), points (35) and games played (42) as a senior. Highlights of his season included a game-winning overtime goal March 13 against Ferris State that sent Western Michigan to its first CCHA semifinal berth since 1993 and a four-point game (one goal, three assists) that tied a career high in a 5-2 victory over fifth-ranked Miami of Ohio on Nov. 26.
“The kid had comeback of the year for Western Michigan and rebuilt his entire game,” Rubenstein said. “Really good offensive set with a knack for scoring the clutch last-season goal.”
That might not bode well for Kelsey Tessier and/or Ryan Garlock, who were serviceable center/wings for the Whale last season but are now unrestricted free agents. Tessier was voted the team’s Unsung Hero by the media.
Rubenstein also thought the Rangers made a good move getting Swedish defenseman Tim Erixon, the son of former Rangers standout checking forward Jan Erixon (1983-93) and the Calgary Flames top prospect, on Wednesday. The Rangers acquired Tim, who was born in 1991 in Port Chester, N.Y., and a fifth-round pick to Calgary for left wing prospect Roman Horak and two second-round picks in the NHL draft in three weeks.
The 6-3, 205-pound Erixon, the Flames’ first-round pick (23rd overall) in 2009, had five goals and 19 assists in 48 games for Skelleftea of the Swedish Elite League last season. NHL teams had until 5 p.m. Wednesday to sign 2009 or let them re-enter the draft. The Flames were unable to come to terms with Erixon, so they sent him to the Rangers, who signed him to an entry-level contract.
Erixon plays on the left side with a left-handed shot and scored four of his five goals this season on the power play, so he could be a challenge to Michael Del Zotto, who struggled in his second pro season after being on the NHL All-Rookie team in 2009-10. Del Zotto and Ryan McDonagh switched places on Jan. 3, with McDonagh progressing tremendously with the Rangers while Del Zotto tried to rediscover his game with the Whale. He had started to make strides when he sustained a broken finger when hit by a shot in a game against the Springfield Falcons on March 5 and never returned to the lineup. He then had sports hernia surgery on May 3 but is expected to be fully recovered from all his injuries for the start of training camp in September.
The Rangers apparently aren’t going to re-sign trade deadline acquisition Bryan McCabe, who was suppose to help on the power play but didn’t do much. The re-signing of defenseman Matt Gilroy is also up in the air, and his cause couldn’t have been helped by the Rangers’ acquisition of Erixon, who was projected to go in the Top 10 after two seasons with Skelleftea and playing for Sweden in the World Hockey Championships. The Rangers reportedly were very interested in Erixon two years ago before selecting Boston College wing Chris Kreider 19th overall.
“I think it was a great move for the Rangers, and even the Flames should like it,” Rubenstein said. “I don’t think the kid Erixon has as much offense as MDZ, but his presence opens the door for other possible deals. It’s hard not to like a deal where you are giving up a fifth-round pick (Horak) and two second-round picks, one from the (Bobby Sanguinetti) deal, for a first-round pick (Erixon) and a fifth.
“The Flames like Horak as they can put him with Ryan Howse, who was Horak’s linemate at Chilliwack (of the Western Hockey League). The duo has great chemistry together.”